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Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald, & Boz Scaggs live!

| September 13, 2010

Chicago Theatre, Chicago
Saturday, September 11, 2010

Each singer on the Dukes Of September Rhythm Revue tour could’ve headlined the Chicago Theatre on any given night, but when placed together for a marathon evening, it certainly gave fans of Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald, and Boz Scaggs more bang for their buck. And the trio’s certainly no stranger to collaborating, starting back in Fagen’s Steely Dan days when a pre-Doobie Brother McDonald sang backup, followed by that pair’s New York Rock & Soul Revue outing throughout the early ’90s alongside Scaggs, fellow Steely member Walter Becker, Phoebe Snow, and others of the jazz/rock ilk.
Given the previous ties, plus each performer’s loosely similar catalogs, everyone’s familiarity was apparent for more than two hours this evening, backed by an equally cohesive backing band of top sessioneers (including guitarist Jon Herington and bassist Freddie Washington). Fagen and McDonald dueled on facing pianos, while Scaggs supplemented on guitar, but it was far from an ego fest as each artist was showcased equally, even if their original material took a backseat to countless covers.
Though some may have showed up for just the hits (and each artist obliged on occasion), the majority of the evening lived up to the tour’s namesake, which was to basically cover a bunch of seemingly random tunes from the past five decades, all united under a rhythmic vibe (regardless of genre). For the first 40 minutes or so, the focus shifted from Don Covay by the way of Steppenwolf’s mostly wordless groove “Sookie Sookie” to Lee Michaels’ call-and-response swinger “Heighty Hi” to the hippie-infused Grateful Dead jam “Shakedown Street” (performed by a surprisingly fervent Fagen).
Scaggs did a stellar job knocking Chuck Berry’s boisterous “You Never Can Tell” out of the park as McDonald’s blue-eyed-soul stylings were in full force come Ray Charles’ “I’ve Got News For You.” In fact, the variety of the setlist seemed to light such a fire under the entertainers that when it came time to usual suspects, like McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin,'” Fagen’s “I.G.Y.” and Scaggs’ “Lowdown,” the polished players appeared more joyous and spontaneous than any solo show.
Nonetheless, there were plenty covers to come, from background singer Catherine Russell’s sultry spin on Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady” to Scaggs’ deep-throated take on Teddy Pendergrass’ bedroom belter “Love T.K.O.” to the triple duet on The O’Jays’ Philly-soul staple “Love Train.” Placing three tunes from The Band consecutively proved to be tedious, and as iconic as they may be, it was a complete overkill in the country/roots rock direction. Nonetheless, the Doobies’ “Takin’ It To The Streets,” plus Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ In The Years” and “Peg” helped balance that monotony, simultaneously appeasing radio listeners, while also benefiting from the full cast’s collaborative dynamic.
Rather than highlighting the co-headliners, the encore tipped its hat once again to seemingly divergent tunes that nonetheless emphasized the rhythm-centered spirit of the undertaking. The Beach Boys’ “Help Me Rhonda” upheld its tradition as a melodic masterpiece and Thunderclap Newman’s “Something In The Air” confirmed the collective’s chemistry with heaven-sent harmonies. Although it’s likely everyone will return to business as usual following this month-long trek, hopefully they’ll always carve out time to return to these robust roots, which was quite possibly the most alive Fagen, McDonald, and Scaggs have sounded since initially finding fame.
— Andy Argyrakis

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Category: Featured, Live Reviews, Weekly

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